Some time between today and 19 January there will be a federal election. You may have noticed a certain escalation in political activity. This is why.

When that election will be, and when Prime Minister John Howard will announce the date, remain great mysteries, mysteries that only one man can resolve.

Which is not to say that we can’t have a guess at it, which is where you, dear Crikey reader, and your superbly honed political instincts enter the picture.

Tip the quinella: the date of the election and the date on which John Howard will announce it, and we will send you on a weekend to remember: a weekend for two at The Lodge.

We’ll include return plane tickets for two from any Australian capital city and a big white car transfer from the airport to your room at  The Lodge, one of the finest little bed and breakfasts in all of Hobart. The winner will get to chose the weekend, but accommodation will be subject to availability.

Email your entry with the subject line ”lodge competition” to [email protected]. No entries will be accepted after the moment the announcement is made. The first correct quinella received will win the prize.

To aid your deliberations, Christian Kerr writes:

Section 28 of the Constitution states that “Every House of Representatives shall continue for three years from the first meeting of the House, and no longer, but may be sooner dissolved by the Governor-General”.

The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 specifies that elections must be held on Satrudays and that the time allowed from the expiry or dissolution of the House to polling day cannot be less than 33 days or more than 68.

The last theoretical date an election can be held on is 19 January next year, but no one will want to be campaigning over Christmas and the New Year.

John Howard would have to hold a separate half Senate election – effectively a referendum on Senate control – if he wants to go to the polls before 30 June.

The 33 days means that 4 August is the earliest feasible election date. The Sydney APEC Summit between 7-9 September knocks out 8 September. Once APEC is out of the way, though, poll season will be on in earnest.

October 13 is a possible date, although this would require a visit to the Governor-General the day after APEC finishes. October 20 looks more likely.

The Budget seems to have been designed to improve the government’s political fortunes – while still keeping a good surplus to dish out on campaign bribes.

It looks as if the PM will give himself as long as possible to peg back Labor’s lead. In the past he’s talked about the affects of election uncertainty on business, so he will be careful not to go too late. Saturday 8 December looks like the last possible date.

So, that’s your task – to pick the magic date between 4 August and then. And don’t forget how Howard went for a longer campaign period last time round. It worked then.